Pope Francis Photo: REUTERS
crime

Activists hope Pope Francis will sway Japanese opinion on death penalty

53 Comments
By Elaine Lies

Japanese activists opposed to capital punishment hope the visit of Pope Francis this weekend will help to soften public opinion in a nation where most people still support the death penalty.

Pope Francis, who will visit Japan from Nov 23 to 26, said last year the death penalty is neither Christian nor humane. The Vatican then formally changed its teaching to declare the death penalty inadmissible whatever the circumstances.

Fewer than 1% of Japanese are Christian but activists say Francis is widely respected as a global moral leader. Opinion polls suggest about 80% of Japanese support the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.

"Most Japanese don't think of the death penalty as a legal or human rights issue," said Shinji Oguma, secretary-general of a group of Japanese lawmakers discussing the future of the death penalty.

"I hope the pope will say something that echoes in people's hearts," he told a news conference on Thursday.

Echoing that view, Kazunori Saito, vice president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations said: "We believe it's important for the people of Japan to listen to the words of the pope and see what they feel in their own hearts."

Prisoners are hanged, and the condemned are not told when it will take place until the morning of the day their sentence is carried out. For decades, the government did not even officially announce that capital sentences had been carried out.

In Tokyo, Francis may meet Iwao Hakamada, an 83-year-old man who spent 48 years in prison, mostly on death row, until new DNA evidence led to a suspension of his sentence. Hakamada, said to be suffering from dementia, was baptised in prison and is awaiting retrial.

Some 120 prisoners are currently on death row and two were executed this year. Fifteen were executed in 2018, the highest number for a decade, including 13 former members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, who had been convicted of carrying out sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway.

Japan is one of only two Group of Seven advanced nations, along with the United States, to retain the death penalty.

"I think that here, the pope will be speaking and showing how life and human dignity can be protected in any case," Mario Marazziti, from the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, told Thursday's news conference.

"No exception... up to the complete refusal of war, atomic weapons, and at the same time how to respect life even of the guilty ones."

A dedicated anti-nuclear campaigner, Pope Francis will also visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the only two cities in the world to have been targeted by atomic bombs. He is set to deliver a major anti-nuclear message in Nagasaki.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

53 Comments
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Good luck, society as a whole here does not see the death penalty as a major issue, and historically Japanese saw death as a method of atonement.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I was anti death penalty until I heard about the cases that get the capital punishment here. No, those are not humans, and should not be treated humanely...

2 ( +10 / -8 )

Hakamada, said to be suffering from dementia, was baptised in prison and is awaiting retrial.

Guilty or not I do not know, but it seems to me that there are plenty on death row all over the world that get that "Come to Jesus" moment when they realize that their own lives will soon end!

So, was getting baptized the cause of his dementia?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

The Popes views are irrelevant to the modern world. Most people in Japan don’t know who he is..or care.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

Mr KiplingToday 07:40 am JST

The Popes views are irrelevant to the modern world. Most people in Japan don’t know who he is..or care.

Really? My experience is the exact opposite. It's a small sample size but I asked a few people this week about the Pope: 95% said they were aware of his visit and welcomed his message of nuclear disarmament.

The Popes views are irrelevant to the modern world.

Peace, harmony, respect for human life, nuclear disarmament and an end to poverty and environmental destruction. You believe these things are irrelevant? Really?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Good luck trying to lecture a non Christian country about how to manage its internal affairs.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I don't have a problem with the death penalty per se. Rapist/murdering scum should be exterminated. However, given Japan's dodgy system of forced confessions and the 99% conviction rate scam, I don't think it is the best country to have it.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The death penalty is no longer used in the majority of countries including 18 American states.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Activists hope Pope Francis will sway Japanese opinion on death penalty.......

Nope, the Pontiff has little chance, one can count the Catholics in my neighbourhood on one hand, and I suspect that is a nationwide trend. So hang em high...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The Christian religion constitute less than 1% here. His views will not have any impact to anything in Japan.His invitation by the Japaneses government or any organization which extended it to him is more of a grandstand, it works well for the Japaneses government to have this welcoming image. Their mantra that Japan is opening up to the world is proved right by these powerful delegations visiting this 'ONLY' island nation. It's commercial for Japan than Socio/religio reasons. 99% of Japanese people are against Organized religions. By organized i mean like going to church every sunday, converting and being a full member, paying tithes or offerings, reading a bible, believe in one God etc. Introduce Christianity to any Japanese and tell them about this, they will answer you: This is a dangerous religion. To Japan the Pope is just like any influential religious or political figure they could invite here, show you around Hiroshima, Kyoto & Nara, and then endorse us as beautiful country. That's it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

99% of Japanese people are against Organized religions. By organized i mean like going to church every sunday, converting and being a full member, paying tithes or offerings, reading a bible, believe in one God etc.

And yet the 12,000,000 or so members of Sokka Gakkai pay tithes, chant sutras and vote Komeito. Are you quite sure 99% of Japanese people don't like organized religion?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I'm not a huge fan of the death penalty myself in general, but some of these criminals fully deserve to be put to death for their heinous actions. And the pope needs to mind his own business, and take care of the mess that is the Catholic church first before telling others how to conduct their affairs.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I'm not a huge fan of the death penalty myself in general, but some of these criminals fully deserve to be put to death for their heinous actions.

I don't support the death penalty but I support the death penalty. You can't beat a good laugh to start the day!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

As a christian and a catholic I admire the efforts of peace that Pope Francis is trying to do coming to Japan.

I’m myself against the death penalty and I believe that besides religions a civilized society should try to rehabilitate and bring back the people that commit crimes rather than just punish them.

But I highly doubt that his message will be truly comprehended in Japan.

Japan’s value of human and animal life are very different,they still rely on harsh punishments and strict orders which should be obeyed without questions.

Also as someone mentioned before a death penalty or even a suicide is viewed by them as a “release” from the burdens.

Add that they have a legendary stubbornness and hate to be told what to do by non-wa or alien religions you can get the picture of the results of his trip.

Still a noble efford.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

More than 70% of the population support and practice Shinto. Many of those support Buddhism too.

The difference with Christianity which usually involves at least a weekly church visit for mass, people make their practice at home on a daily basis. The majority of homes have butsudans or shrines. They also attend their local Shinto shrines on the necessary days.

Buddhism temples are also visited. I think the pope is known and respected for what he is, the head of the Catholic church.

The Soka Gakkai are about 20 million members but the core of people who actually practice are probably less than 10 million. They don't all vote, although higher than others, about 80%. Not all vote for their Komeito. Some vote for the LDP. The Soka Gakkai is also practiced in more than 190 countries with an international membership of more than 30 million.

I know many more Japanese who are devoted followers of their religions than those who don't. Recently in our area was their autumn shrine fest with people even returning home for the occasion. The streets were full for several nights.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I am Catholic too, devoted to the faith.

One thing I have leant from experience , you cannot force Catholicism or any religious beliefs down anyone throat, let alone a nations.

Rightly or wrongly I think the Death Penalty is here to stay.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good luck trying to lecture a non Christian country about how to manage its internal affairs.

I'm Christian but my views on the death penalty aren't going to change because Pope Francis came along and declared it "inadmissible whatever the circumstances", whatever that means. People should be allowed to think for themselves, not blindly follow an organization that claims to speak on behalf of God despite never having been in communication with God.

OK, as you can see I'm not a very good Christian, but Christian nonetheless.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I don't have a problem with the death penalty per se. Rapist/murdering scum should be exterminated. However, given Japan's dodgy system of forced confessions and the 99% conviction rate scam, I don't think it is the best country to have it.

Are there any countries which can claim a perfect legal system where no innocent has been murdered by the state? If you can name one, you can start the debate.

As for this pope, some were heralding him as a the new hope of the Catholic Church and he talked a good game without doing much. I want to see him do something tangible to relieve human suffering where his existing client base is suffering - lifting the ban on contraception would greatly help those in Africa for a start.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"Are you quite sure 99% of Japanese people don't like organized religion?" There's a very fine line between a cult and a religion. Nichiren Buddhism is a religion, and Soka Gakkai is Ikeda Daisaku's personality cult. I've witnessed it destroy lives and split families firsthand.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

zichi:

The death penalty is no longer used in the majority of countries including 18 American states.

To be more specific for US,

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the United States, currently used by 29 states, the federal government, and the military...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_States#:~:targetText=Capital%20punishment%20is%20a%20legal,applies%20the%20death%20penalty%20regularly.

Number of death penalties: Japan vs US:

2018 Japan (15), US (25) -- Note that Japan executed members of Aum Shinrikyo

2017 Japan (4), US (23)

2016 Japan (3), US (27)

2015 Japan (3), US (36)

2014 Japan (3), US (57)

China is believed to have the highest number, in thousands, but it's state secrete and do not publish.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

99% of Japanese people are against Organized religions. By organized i mean like going to church every sunday, converting and being a full member, paying tithes or offerings, reading a bible, believe in one God etc.

And yet the 12,000,000 or so members of Sokka Gakkai pay tithes, chant sutras and vote Komeito. Are you quite sure 99% of Japanese people don't like organized religion?

Are you quite sure 99% of Japanese people don't like organized religion?" There's a very fine line between a cult and a religion. Nichiren Buddhism is a religion, and Soka Gakkai is Ikeda Daisaku's personality cult. I've witnessed it destroy lives and split families firsthand.

@Alfie Noakes & @expat by 99% i was just trying to say society at large are not that interested in these forms of organized religions, not as a correct/objective figure. So at @expat you are actually correct by mentioning the fine line between a religion and a cult, that is the main reason why most Japanese will not convert to any form of organized religion. They will rather stay away than convert. The Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks do factor in big time in this religio-phobia attitude. Religion/cult the fact of being affiliated to any disinterests them. Add to what you have said about Sokka Gakkai or Nichiren. Even those that claim to Buddhists or Shinto, it doesn't go any deeper.

@Alfie I don't think 12 million members represents Japan only. i think its their global membership. in Japan around 5 million. Also factor in the people who are really practicing it! Actually now i did a quick survey to 15 Japanese people at my work place , non is Sokka Gakkai they all gave me that face of disgust towards it , followed with a えええええええ!!。I can't say out of 125 million Japanese, and i talked to 15 then make a conclusion, but it is the general consensus. Ask a few people around you, and share with me their thoughts. よろしく!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

More than 70% of the population support and practice Shinto. Many of those support Buddhism too.

Huh?

Religion in Japan is dominated by Shinto (the ethnic religion of the Japanese people) and by Buddhism. According to surveys carried out in 2006 and 2008 less than 40% of the population of Japan identifies with an organized religion: around 35% are Buddhists, 3% to 4% are members of Shinto sects and derived religions, and from fewer than 1% to 2.3% are Christians.

Shinto is hardly a "major" religion here outside of the royal family! And the "majority" of the rest only "practice" it when it comes to going to their local shrine for New Year's!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Shinto is hardly a "major" religion here outside of the royal family!

Say what?

Shinto is THE major religion here. Children are taken to the shrines to be blessed at 100 days. Most of the country visits the shrine in the first three days of the years. Pretty much everyone who doesn't get the superficial chapel marriage gets married at a shrine. People make visits to the shrine at the start of the business or school year to get blessed for good luck. People who hit their yakudoshi (bad year/age) go to get blessed to try to keep the good luck at bay.

Japanese people, while not proselytizers, generally live very religious lives. It's just not as blatant because it's hard to separate the culture from the religion, so there's not the same contrast that makes the religious element of it so blatant, particularly since they almost never talk about a god or gods.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Actually now i did a quick survey to 15 Japanese people at my work place , non is Sokka Gakkai they all gave me that face of disgust towards it , followed with a えええええええ!

I was advised not to raise this topic - particularly at the workplace.

One coworker told me not to be worried about too much harassment from this group as I can’t vote.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan: Religious affiliations in 2017

Shinto 70.4%. Buddhism 69.8%.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/237609/religions-in-japan/

Shinto shrines have many events other than the New Year. Most recently the shrines were full for the autumn fests.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I was advised not to raise this topic - particularly at the workplace.

You need to be careful. They walk among us, but are not visible.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"I'm not a huge fan of the death penalty myself in general, but some of these criminals fully deserve to be put to death for their heinous actions."

I don't support the death penalty but I support the death penalty. You can't beat a good laugh to start the day!

what he meant is that, generally speaking(!), he ,s not a big fan of the death penalty ( he never said that he does not support it ), but in some particular cases it,s hard not to wish for some criminals to pay for their actions and be executed ( when they don,t feel any kind of remorse and their crimes were particularly horrendous ). ( i think you distorted what he said) .

my family is Roman Catholic, and my mom goes to church every sunday and we already had some discussions about this. but here i am saying that not everything is black and white.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

my family is Roman Catholic, and my mom goes to church every sunday and we already had some discussions about this. but here i am saying that not everything is black and white.

There is one thing that is black and white for me, and that is that if you have the death penalty, due to human fallibility, some innocents will be executed.

For that reason alone I can never agree with the death penalty. Even though I think plenty deserve it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In the UK there are many many Birth-marriage-christening-death catholics. They only attend their church for those events. But if asked they would still declare to be catholics. I have only have one aunt in my family, sister of my mother who attends church several times a week, usually everyday.

When I started visiting Ireland decades ago the Irish went to church at least once or twice a day. After 30 years it became less so.

When I lived in Italy, Italians visited their churches much less than I would have thought.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is comical. The Pope is supposed to change the government's views on this subject? I don't recall a large catholic following in Japan. Also, I don't recall Japan executing people frequently.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There is one thing that is black and white for me, and that is that if you have the death penalty, due to human fallibility, some innocents will be executed.

For that reason alone I can never agree with the death penalty. Even though I think plenty deserve it.

yes, and i would to emphasize the following bit: "...in some particular cases". since you also think that some deserve the death penalty, i think we can both agree that the focus should be on how to make it even more restricted.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Shinto is THE major religion here. Children are taken to the shrines to be blessed at 100 days. Most of the country visits the shrine in the first three days of the years. Pretty much everyone who doesn't get the superficial chapel marriage gets married at a shrine. People make visits to the shrine at the start of the business or school year to get blessed for good luck. People who hit their yakudoshi (bad year/age) go to get blessed to try to keep the good luck at bay.

Most of the country visit either shrines or temples. The former are Shinto and the later are Buddhist. The people do not openly state they are Shinto,

And many of the things you write are are not about the religion, or following any religion, but based upon cultural tradition rather than any strong religious beliefs.

And I can share from experience that many do not know the difference between a shrine and temple, and which is associated with which religion!

Japanese are not "tied" to any one religion, and are tolerant of pretty much all religions, even to the point where many "mix and match" them together. Go to church on Sunday, then visit their local Shinto shrine on Monday! Along the way they will go to a temple for some extra blessings too!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Back on topic please.

List of executions in Japan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_executions_in_Japan

The only year inmates were not executed was 2011.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'm against capital punishment but if I'm very close relation with the victim who was killed by a rapist (or any other criminal) It will be difficult to find my position. More than the death penalty I feel that the Pope should dedicate anti-nuclear campaign, his voice will be marked to the world when he firmly say how a single nuclear weapon can devastate living spaces of innocents people, from any age or gender. Nuke is much more criminal than any kind of murder.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is one thing that is black and white for me, and that is that if you have the death penalty, due to human fallibility, some innocents will be executed.

i would like to emphasize the following bit: "...in some particular cases". i say make it even more restricted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Pope was imprisoned by the fascist regime that ruled his native Argentina and the abuses they did are happening in the USA today. He is a survivor and he has a message for us all, Christian and non-Christian alike. Pope Francis has a lot of wisdom to tell us for today and we need to listen to what he says.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i would like to emphasize the following bit: "...in some particular cases". i say make it even more restricted.

Making more restricted means less innocents will be executed.

But unless they can come up with a way of ensuring no innocents are executed, I can’t support the death penalty. I don’t see it as being more a acceptable when less innocents are executed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Making more restricted means less innocents will be executed.

But unless they can come up with a way of ensuring no innocents are executed...

i think that ,s what "particular cases" and "restricted" means. if the guilty is indeed guilty ( beyond a reasonable doubt ) . . . but i don,t think that matters in here because this is about the Pope and the Catholic Church and the "Japanese activists who are opposed to capital punishment...". imo nothing ,s gonna change, in both sides.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let's take a look at wikpedia for some more insight into the pope/church's opinion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_capital_punishment

On 2 August 2018, it was announced that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be revised to state that the Church teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person".[34][35] A full letter to the Bishops regarding the change stated that it was consistent with the previous teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity of human life, and that it reflected how modern society had better prison systems with a goal of criminal rehabilitation that made the death penalty unnecessary for the protection of innocent people.

Whether innocent people are protected is debatable. Even if they are, I'd rather not waste tax money on rehabilitating killers. The ones murdered don't get a second chance, why should the murderers?

"Dignity of human life?" How about the dignity of those who were killed, or their relatives?

I still don't see a compelling argument against the death penalty. It strikes me as strange that these activists with time on their hands can't find a more worthy cause than trying to help rapists and murderers get a 2nd chance at life.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

if the guilty is indeed guilty ( beyond a reasonable doubt )

All people found guilty of a crime are supposed to be beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s literally the criteria for finding someone guilty. So we already have the state of events being described. How do you tighten that up?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How bizarre that so many are for the death penalty despite all the mistakes that have been made and easy to find, yet those same people will speak against an individual's right to decide for themselves to die.

I suggest anyone interested read about Joe Arridy. Given his mental impairments they essentially murdered a six year old in a 23 year old man's body, and for a crime he obviously did not commit. He spent his last days on death row happily playing with a toy train, not even understanding what they were going to do to him. Evil walks among us, and they will make any excuse to kill others, often wrapping it up in the prettiest excuses they can find, such as safety. And they lie.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How do you tighten that up?

i don,t know dude, you asking me?! what i know is that some people deserve to be put to death, and what i also know is that the Catholic Church and these activists are not gonna change their minds, and Japan is not gonna change too, and especially USA even though it,s not all states.

Whether innocent people are protected is debatable. Even if they are, I'd rather not waste tax money on rehabilitating killers. The ones murdered don't get a second chance, why should the murderers?

"Dignity of human life?" How about the dignity of those who were killed, or their relatives?

I still don't see a compelling argument against the death penalty. It strikes me as strange that these activists with time on their hands can't find a more worthy cause than trying to help rapists and murderers get a 2nd chance at life.

i agree with what was said in the previous comment.

"I think that here, the pope will be speaking and showing how life and human dignity can be protected in any case,"

how about the human dignity and the lives of the victims... are they protected...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I don't have a problem with the death penalty per se. Rapist/murdering scum should be exterminated. However, given Japan's dodgy system of forced confessions and the 99% conviction rate scam, I don't think it is the best country to have it".

THIS

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese people are too intellectually lazy and acculturated to expect retribution from the justice system to question the death penalty.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

what i know is that some people deserve to be put to death

Yep, but more importantly than that, some innocents deserve not to be murdered by the state. And that trumps the deservedness to be executed of those you speak of.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yep, but more importantly than that, some innocents deserve not to be murdered by the state. And that trumps the deservedness to be executed of those you speak of.

... and i don,t disagree with you buddy ... it looks like we,ve reached some kind of impasse so let,s just leave it there huh. long story short, even with Pope Francis in Japan, things are not gonna change anytime soon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Then of course there is the simple notion that killing is wrong.

Regardless if the killing is of killers, it's still killing.

On the few occasions I have discussed this with Japanese people - they have been surprised when I said I don't support the death penalty because that means I am morally aiding and abetting in the killing of people.

Many were reluctant to even accept such a notion as even being admissable.

I said, personally I don't care what perspective you take, but you must be willing to accept the reality of the death penalty for what it is - state killing - and by accepting such you become part of that process.

I'm sure many of the pro-death posters on here accept that and see nothing wrong with killing killers and probably in fact strongly espouse such. At least that's confronting the reality.

But those who say I want them killed but it's nothing to do with me is frankly a moral cop out - I'm clean.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Because of his reforms Pope Francis does not have the full support of the Roman Curia which wants to maintain the conservative traditional stance on all the major issues.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

 Soka Gakkai is Ikeda Daisaku's personality cult. I've witnessed it destroy lives and split families firsthand.

And I've seen Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism destroy lives too. While I'm no fan, I don't see how it can be described as a cult. I've attended many Soka Gakkai functions as a non-member (I have family who are members), and have felt no great pressure to join or antipathy for not being a member. Not so different from something like Methodist churches here. Some good drinking parties too. :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't have a problem with the death penalty per se. Rapist/murdering scum should be exterminated.

I don't have a problem with the death penalty in principle either. But I suspect I have a completely different view from yourself. Your comment implies it's an act of retribution. For me, that conjures up images of torch bearing villagers off to kill today's bad person, and satisfy their own lust/anger in the process. Not pleasant.

I'm all for public safety, so keeping dangerous people out of society is fine. Killing such people is one way of doing that - end of problem. But we know that mistakes are made, and depending on how the story is told, there can be a fine line between a cold-blooded killer and someone who finds themself in difficult circumstances. So I prefer prison.

Perhaps my view is somewhat cold-hearted, but I'll take public safety over retribution.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

 So I prefer prison.

Yet at what price to society? We have to foot the bills to keep them incarcerated.

I dont like my tax money being used to keep people alive, just to keep them behind walls. If prison is the only option there needs to be a better system created for the inmates to pay their own way.,

Bring back the chain-gangs!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yet at what price to society?

A fair question. I'd support the death penalty if the cost of imprisonment were too high. (I said my view was cold hearted.) I'd prefer to see prison reform where prisoners can pay their way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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